Coming off a 2-5 homestand, the Astros found themselves not only chasing the Rangers but also trying to hold off the Mariners. The AL West, in short order, has embraced chaos. Not exactly where I envisioned the defending champions in late August, but here they are. For the first time since 2016 — 2020 was basically a short sample — the AL West is completely up for grabs. A compelling, yet stressful development.
This current six-game road trip through Detroit and Boston could hold significant ramifications for the Astros. After all, Seattle is also in the middle of a pivotal six-game stretch, but against the Royals and Athletics. Texas figures to come out of its tailspin, sooner or later. A win on Friday would’ve been a nice first step for the Astros, especially on the heels of arguably their most disappointing performance at home since the 2019 World Series.
Alas, the series opener against the Tigers was a mostly depressing affair. For one, the lineup was ineffective, even if some of the outs were loud and carried far. Only one hit — Jose Altuve’s RBI infield single — in the third inning. One lousy run.
To be fair, there were instances when it looked like the Astros would break the game open. Yordan Alvarez looked more comfortable at the plate. He made decent contact but to the wrong part of the park. The lineup had ample opportunities with the Tigers committing four errors. That big hit just didn’t happen, though.
If there is a modest silver lining to this game, it was Framber Valdez. His recent second-half skid has put Houston in a bit of a precarious position. The club’s postseason prospects don’t look promising if the left-hander continues to pitch poorly. His start in Detroit was something to closely watch.
Thankfully, it worked out relatively fine for Valdez, although there were some issues. Sure, he blanked the Tigers for seven innings, but we’re also talking about a club with an 88 wRC+ on the season, among the worst in baseball. Walks were also an issue as Valdez issued five in total. But he did look sharper at times and he was able to avoid that one letdown inning that has seemingly plagued him lately. He also had 16 whiffs, so, it was progress.
Obviously, the score was close for virtually the entire game, or until the end. That ninth inning will likely haunt the Astros for a while as Ryan Pressly collected two quick outs in the bottom of the ninth before he utterly imploded as the Tigers scored four runs, including a walk-off three-run shot by Parker Meadows. Pressly’s breaking pitches (curveball and slider) were responsible for all of the hits he allowed. Not a great night for obvious reasons.
Well, there isn’t too much more to say about this one other than it stings. With two outs and multiple opportunities with two strikes to end the game, Pressly fell short. We saw Kyle Tucker rob Miguel Cabrera, which was cool. But, overall, this game was a gut punch. The Astros were lifeless at the plate again. Their closer had a meltdown. There is still a decent amount of baseball to play, but the recent results don’t exactly inspire confidence about the remainder of the season.